§ 39-31-7. Duties of the commission.
(a) The commission may approve any proposals made by the electric-and gas-distribution company that are commercially reasonable and advance the purposes of this chapter. The commission's authority shall include, without limitation, the authority to:
(1) Approve long-term contracts entered into pursuant to the goals and provisions of this chapter for large-or small-scale hydroelectric power and renewable-energy resources that are eligible under the renewable-energy standard established by chapter 26 of title 39; provided, however, that large-scale hydroelectric power shall not be eligible under the renewable-energy standard established by chapter 26 of title 39;
(2) Approve long-term contracts for natural-gas pipeline infrastructure and capacity consistent with the purposes of this chapter;
(3) Approve rate-recovery mechanisms proposed by the electric-and gas-distribution companies relating to costs incurred under this chapter by the electric-and gas-distribution company that facilitate the multi-state or regional sharing of costs necessary to implement electric transmission and natural-gas pipeline infrastructure projects pursued under this chapter, including any costs incurred through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved tariffs related to such multi-state or regional energy infrastructure procurements;
(4) Address any proposed changes to standard-offer procurements, standard-offer pricing and retail-choice rules;
(5) Provide for the recovery of reasonable costs from all distribution customers incurred by the electric-and gas-distribution company in furtherance of the purposes of this chapter that may include, but are not limited to, costs incurred under any contracts approved by the commission under this section and costs associated with the management of incremental capacity resulting from interstate gas-pipeline expansion projects pursued pursuant to this chapter and costs associated with investments in local gas-distribution network assets necessary to implement such interstate gas-pipeline expansion projects;
(6) Approve cost allocation proposals filed by the gas-distribution company and/or the electric-distribution company that appropriately allocate natural-gas infrastructure and capacity costs incurred under § 39-31-6 between electric and gas-distribution customers of the electric-and gas-distribution company in a manner proportional to the energy benefits accrued by Rhode Island's gas and electric customers from making such investments. In making its determination, the commission shall consider projected reductions in regional, wholesale electric prices as a benefit that accrues to electric ratepayers. The allocation of costs shall include all distribution customers, regardless from whom they are purchasing their commodity service; and
(7) Approve any other proposed regulatory or ratemaking changes that reasonably advance the goals set forth herein.
(b) The grant of authorizations under this chapter shall not be construed as creating a mandate or obligation on the part of the electric-and gas-distribution company to enter into any contracts or file any proposals pursuant to this chapter.
(c) The public utilities commission shall docket any proposals made by the office of energy resources and division of public utilities and carriers pursuant to § 39-31-4. Docket materials shall be posted and maintained on the commission's website. The commission shall conduct proceedings, as provided below, solely for the purpose of determining whether the proposed infrastructure projects, if implemented, are in the public interest and no commitments shall be valid or authorized without such finding being made by the commission. The validity and approval of any commitments made by the electric-or gas-distribution company in furtherance of the purposes of this chapter shall be separate and subject to § 39-31-5. The docket opened pursuant to this paragraph shall proceed as follows:
(1) The following state agencies shall provide advisory opinions to the commission on the topics specified below within sixty (60) days from the docketing date:
(i) The department of environmental management (DEM) shall provide an advisory opinion on the expected greenhouse gas emissions and statewide environmental impacts resulting from the proposed project(s).
(ii) The commerce corporation shall provide an advisory opinion on the expected statewide economic impacts resulting from the proposed project(s).
(2) The commission shall notify the aforementioned agencies upon the filing of any proposal made under this section, and notify them of any related hearings and/or proceedings.
(3) Advisory opinions issued by agencies designated under (c)(1) of this section shall not be considered as final decisions of the agencies making the opinions and shall not be subject to judicial review under § 42-35-15 or any other provision of the general laws.
(4) Upon completion of the sixty-day (60) advisory opinion period, the commission shall provide for a thirty-day (30) public comment period on any energy infrastructure project(s) selected pursuant to this chapter and hold evidentiary hearings. In addition to evidentiary hearings, the commission shall also hold at least one public hearing to accept public comment on the proposal(s) prior to an open meeting held pursuant to this section.
(5) The commission shall hold an open meeting no later than one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of filing by the office of energy resources and division of public utilities and carriers filing and shall certify that the proposed project(s) are in the public interest if, in the commission's determination, and in consideration of filed advisory opinions and the opinion of the electric-or gas-distribution utility, the proposed infrastructure project(s):
(i) Are consistent with the findings and purposes of this chapter;
(ii) Will benefit Rhode Island by improving local and regional energy system reliability and security;
(iii) Will benefit Rhode Island ratepayers by offering the potential for reduced-energy price volatility and reduction of energy-supply costs in the context of an integrated regional energy system;
(iv) Will not cause unacceptable harm to the environment and are consistent with the region's greenhouse gas-reduction goals; and
(v) Will enhance the economic fabric of the state.
(6) The commission shall issue a written determination of its findings within ten (10) business days of its open-meeting decision and provide copies of that determination, along with copies of all advisory opinions, public comment, and any other materials deemed relevant to the commission determination, to the governor, the president of the senate, the speaker of the house, the commissioner of the office of energy resources, and the administrator of the division of public utilities and carriers.
(d) A determination issued by the commission shall constitute the sole, final, binding, and determinative regulatory decision within the state for the purpose of authorizing the state to support a proposed, regional-energy infrastructure project(s) that is funded through the Federal Energy Regulation Commission approved tariffs on a regional and/or multi-state basis pursuant to this chapter. Appeals shall be governed by § 39-5-1.
(e) Upon issuance of a written determination by the commission finding that the proposed project(s) is in the public interest, the office of energy resources and division of public utilities and carriers shall, on behalf of the state, be authorized to support any regional and/or multi-state process necessary to implement the project(s), including, without limitation, supporting any necessary and related Federal Energy Regulatory Commission filings; provided, however, that any commitments made by the electric-or gas-distribution company to implement the proposals remain voluntary and subject to § 39-31-5.
(f) Nothing in this section shall be construed to preclude the electric-or gas-distribution company from making a filing under § 39-31-6, simultaneous with a filing under this section by the office of energy resources and the division of public utilities, in which case the filings made under §§ 39-31-6 and 39-31-7 of this chapter shall be consolidated.
(P.L. 2014, ch. 424, § 1; P.L. 2014, ch. 477, § 1.)